21 October 2008

Blowing Whistles - Leicester Square Theatre - 27th October 2008


The evening before Gay Pride, thirtysomething couple Nigel and Jamie celebrate their 10th anniversary by finding someone on the internet dating site Gaydar for the night. The problem is that their chosen squeeze, Mark, is looking for something more than a one-night stand and, as a result, Jamie begins to question his relationship...

Paul Keating (Jamie)
Stuart Laing (Nigel)
Daniel Finn (Mark)
It took me quite a while – about 20 minutes – to warm to this play. On the face of it, it seemed like every other “gay play”; trite, camp, fluffy and with the promise of some cute totty in the buff. I was more interested, frankly, in some of the cute totty in the audience (PPSI* coverage = about 95%, and if the gorgeous Silver Fox wearing a suit in the back row is reading this, please get in touch), But then I started to realise that, under the fluff, there was actually some quite good writing, and some quite decent acting as well. On at least two occasions, there was that rare theatrical experience – A Silence. Now, “silence” in the theatre is usually full of the sound of people coughing, rattling sweet papers, shifting in their seats and so on. But A Silence is different. A Silence is the sound that black velvet would make if it could, and occurs only when every single person in the auditorium is watching and listening with complete and total concentration, a silence so intense as to be almost audible. It happens very, very rarely and in fact I think I’ve only experienced it once before in the entire time I’ve been writing this blog, and that was during Shadowlands. What was amazing is that, not only did it happen twice, but each time it was burst by a line so goddamned funny as to render the entire audience completely hysterical. A Silence only occurs when great writing is matched by a great and believable performance but the lines, sad to say, cannot really be quoted out of context, because they just refuse to be tied down.

And another thing. What this play does extremely well is put “gay life” under a microscope and dissect it, showing quite how vacuous and shallow it really is. This is shown particularly well when Gay Pride is being discussed; one character says “It used to be about politics, about making speeches, about the fight for freedom – now its just marketing; selling crap with rainbow flags on and calling it equality”. Right on, Sister! Without wishing to sound like a Bitter Old Queen (bitter – yes; old – getting there; queen – you decide) it is a simple fact that “We did all the work and they get all the benefit”. Young gay men do have it so effing easy these days, and know little (and care less) about the Bad Old Days of pre-1967, or even the Just As Bad Old Days of La Thatcher and her attempts to demonise gay men and drive us back underground. The days of speechifying and waving placards have to be explained to Mark, the teenage boy in terms of his own frames of reference – gay activist Ian McKellen has to be referred to as “Gandalf”. Its actually quite disturbing to think that, to the Young and Pretty, this is who Ian McKellan is. Potential shags used to be met by writing to a box number with a passport-sized photo enclosed – now all you have to do is log on to the net and you can be making the beast with two backs in 20 minutes. God, I sound old.

Anyway, full marks to Matthew Todd, the writer, for putting it all into words, and providing some hilarious one-liners and a fair few eye-wiping moments. All three of the cast were excellent – Paul Keating (you may have seen him in the Chocolate Factory’s production of Little Shop of Horrors) was first class as Jamie, biceps, Aussiebums and all. Stuart Laing played Nigel as a glib, slimy, untrustworthy charlatan with the charm of Old Nick himself – the kind of man our mothers warned us about but whom we invariably find ourselves lured into bed by (well, at least I do) and Daniel Finn was sweet, blond, stacked and not quite so butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth as he would have you believe.

The only thing that didn’t quite come across was the sofa – do gay men really shop for furniture in Habitat any more? Soooooooo 80’s old hat, dharling.
A clip from the 2005 Croydon production: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RU42Xa12I00


Anonymous said...

Him indoors here
Just thought id stick my oar in and say that as a gay man I found this play very moving.It left me feeling that a celebration of our love for each other was the only antitdote to the shallow creatures we have become in this age of the cruising site.Paul Keatings performance was astounding and at the end of the play i saw a performer truly drained by where his monumental emotianal performance had taken him. This play wont ever get the wider audience say a play like my night with reg would get but hopefully the gays that do go and see it. (and they should in droves) will see that life with just vaneer and no depth is not really what humanity is about!!!!

rtb said...

I do wish you'd spellcheck your comments, Crabstick!

JohnnyFox said...

Knock me down with a marabou feather, the EVENING STANDARD (a) liked it and (b) likened it to "a gay, contemporary equivalent of Ibsen’s Doll’s House"

Bloody Nora. Literally.